Rosetta’s Last Hurrah

As most people know, the Rosetta spacecraft will be ending its mission to comet 67P/CG this month. If all goes as planned, Rosetta will brake and execute a slow dive, shooting back as much data as possible before impact.

Rosetta has been circling in, closer and closer to the surface, but on 29 September it will make its final monuevre (ESA prefers the British spelling), initiating a “free-fall slowly towards the comet” for about 20 km.

Rosetta’s last week at the comet. ESA
Rosetta’s last week at the comet. ESA
A simplified overview of Rosetta’s last week of manoeuvres at Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (comet rotation is not considered). After 24 September the spacecraft will leave the flyover orbits and transfer towards an initial point of a 16 x 23 km orbit that will be used to prepare for the final descent. The collision course manoeuvre will take place in the evening of 29 September, initiating the descent from an altitude of about 20 km. The impact is expected to occur at 10:40 GMT (±20 minutes) at the comet, which taking into account the 40 minute signal travel time between Rosetta and Earth on 30 September, means the confirmation would be expected at mission control at 11:20 GMT / 13:20 CEST (±20 minutes).

The project team has chosen to aim for one of the “active pits”, identified as a source of gas and dust. The final descent will pick up very close range observations of one such pit, to learn as much as possible.

This should be an exciting and fitting ending for Rosetta.

 

Space Saturday

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